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Tyronne goes from taking photos to taking off

Working as a professional photographer on the Gold Coast for 20 years, and with no prior flight experience, Tyronne Fitzgerald never thought he’d be behind the controls of a helicopter.

While he always had an interest in flying helicopters Tyronne didn’t start his studies until later in life, having thought the course costs were too high and subject matter too difficult.

“Being a helicopter pilot was always something I was always interested in, however I always figured it would cost too much,” explained Tyronne.

“But after a chat with TAFE Queensland and the flight instructors from Airwork Helicopters they told me how the students learn in a hands-on environment, and about the VET Student Loans — it changed my mind,” said Tyronne.

So at the age of 41 Tyronne decided to make the change to a career in aviation and enrolled in TAFE Queensland’s Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence - Helicopter) (AVI50319) in partnership with Airwork Aviation in Caboolture.

“I was nervous about studying but the instructors were amazingly helpful. Their hands-on training combined with their knowledge helped get us through the workload,” he said.

Tyronne completed his training with Airwork Aviation in a self-contained hanger at the Caboolture Airfield close to Brisbane, Archerfield and Sunshine Coast airspaces.

The course requires students to pass seven theoretical subjects before taking a flight with their instructors — a combination that Tyronne said was vital to ensuring his success as a pilot.

“As the instructors took me through the course I was surprised at how quickly I was picking up the practical knowledge,” said Tyronne.

“All the theory helps when you get to the practical part of actually flying the helicopter. That first flight is exhilarating but because you know your stuff, and the instructor is guiding you, it’s an amazing and exciting experience."

“Being able to operate inside and outside of controlled airspace, we could fly to more places and build confidence operating our aircraft. It was awesome flying over mountains and seeing things most people don’t get to see, and landing in busy airports,” Tyronne said.

Tyronne has now kicked off his new career in aviation, working as part of ground operations at Sea World Helicopters on the Gold Coast on his way to securing his first flying position.

“Eventually I’d like to operate scenic flights or work within the agriculture sector. I’d like to fly police helicopters and learn instrument flying, where I can fly at night relying on instruments to navigate, rather than vision,” said Tyronne.